Men’s, women’s volleyball begin playoffs Saturday

OUA quarterfinals home for men against Guelph, away for women at Western 

The men's volleyball team finished first in the OUA.

After clinching playoff berths, both men’s and women’s volleyball teams will play in the OUA quarterfinal games this Saturday. The men will host the Guelph Gryphons (8-9) while the women will travel to take on the Western Mustangs (14-5) in their bid to make the OUA Final Four.

Men’s volleyball

Ending their season on an eight-game win streak, the Gaels managed to finish atop the OUA East last week.

After two resounding straight-set wins against Trent (0-16) and RMC (2-15), the Gaels were awarded home court advantage over the Gryphons for Saturday’s match. The last time Queen’s lost a game before embarking on their win-streak was a 3-1 defeat to Guelph on Jan. 18.  

First-year Head Coach Gabriel DeGroot told The Journal that he feels “just fine” about the match-up despite their recent history with Guelph. 

“That game was obviously the first back after Christmas, so I don’t think we were back to full match shape. And playing on the road—that’s a tough home court advantage,” DeGroot said of his team’s away loss to Guelph at the turn of the New Year. “We weren’t quite as prepared as we needed to be.”

This time around, though, the Gaels will be ready. DeGroot’s seen significant improvement since the aforementioned loss, racking up wins against highly ranked conference rivals such as Ryerson and University of Toronto. 

“The guys worked extremely hard to get themselves into first place and put themselves in a situation where we [play] the fourth-place seed from the west [Guelph],” he said. “Having earned that is going to put us in a really good position going into playoffs.”

If Queen’s wins Saturday’s matchup, they’ll host the OUA Final Four the following weekend. 

The Gaels’ ultimate goal is dethroning the McMaster Marauders (15-2) in the OUA Final, who’ve won the past six OUA championships. 

Last year, the Marauders swept the Gaels in straight sets in the OUA gold medal game. In their earlier meeting this season, the Gaels beat McMaster in five sets—with a 15-13 score in the final set. 

“[Beating McMaster] was a huge confidence boost for us because I think now, going into playoffs, we know we have to execute, we know we have to play our best,” DeGroot said. “But we also know that we can beat everyone that we could be put up against this year.”

With the end of the season, second-year Zane Grossinger secured second in the OUA for assists per set at 10 per game. Meanwhile, fourth-year Zac Hutcheson reached a career high and OUA second-best 266 total kills for the season. Queen’s led the OUA with 871 total kills on the year.

As the Gaels have found their footing this season, DeGroot said a lot of his team’s success could be credited to their offense. 

“We’re running four offensive options all the time and it’s pretty hard to defend us right now,” he said. “That piece has probably made the most significant change in our second half and has provided a ton of success.” 

“Being able to execute and play the way that we kind of planned all year—it was cool to see that all happen this second semester.”

Women’s volleyball

Coming into the playoffs on a six-game win streak, the women’s volleyball team (13-6) have momentum going into their OUA quarterfinal bout against Western.

Winning their last three regular season games in convincing straight-sets against the RMC Paladins (1-16), Lakehead Thunderwolves (1-17), and Trent Excalibur (1-16), the team appears to be peaking at the right time.

In an interview with The Journal, second-year Head Coach Ryan Ratushniak said his team feels good coming off their recent string of victories. 

“We’ve been playing very confident and very well lately,” Ratushniak said. “We’re confident in our serving game and [our ability to put] Western in trouble with our serving and block defense.”

As well, Ratushniak said the Gaels are confident with their offense, which leads the OUA in kills (894). They also sit 10th in the league for digs—a testament to their ability to stay attacking despite pressure from opposition. Even though they played a string of one-win teams to end their season, Ratushniak has liked what he’s seen from his team to cap off the regular season.

“We haven't played opponents with the best records necessarily in our last couple weeks but the same time, I think we still did what we needed to do,” he said.

Currently missing from the Gaels’ roster is second-year Erin Finan with a concussion and fifth-year Isabelle Korchniski, who tore her ACL in a match against U of T four weeks ago.

Despite their absences, the rest of the team has dominated, with fifth-year Caroline Livingston totaling 247 kills this season—good for fourth in the OUA. In their match against the Paladins, Livingston reached the 700 career-kills mark.

Heading into their game against a Western team who finished two points ahead of Queen’s in the regular season, the women will need to be aggressive if they hope to advance to the OUA Final Four.

Last year, the Gaels fell to the Mustangs in four sets in the OUA quarterfinals. Queen’s hasn’t advanced past the quarterfinals since the 2011-12 season, when they qualified for the U Sports Championships and lost in the consolation semi-final.

In their earlier meeting this season, the Gaels fell to the Mustangs in five sets. Western is currently riding their own seven-game win streak going into the match, but Queen’s is hoping their newfound offensive power will give them the upper hand Saturday.

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